Hello, and welcome back to another week with the Aspiring Gardener! Love is in the air, and shared between couples of all sorts, chocolate-dipped strawberries are being consumed. They’re pretty good, right? But while cacao is tricky to grow without a greenhouse, strawberries are far more forgiving, though it will take some time to get any strawberries. Be sure to check the frost dates, because strawberries are best planted as soon as the ground’s workable. However, before planting, consider your soil and shade situation, as strawberries prefer full sun and well-drained, fertile soil.
Making sure your planting site is prepared can be done by mixing compost and fertilizers into the soil and removing any weeds up to a month or so before planting. Strawberries prefer soil between 5.5 and 7 pH, so if the soil in your yard is too alkaline, it may be better to plant in a raised bed, barrel, or large pot. When planting, make sure to give them space to sprawl. From there, weed them diligently and keep the soil moist. Water them well when first planted to encourage strong root growth.
Once flowers appear, you can pinch them off to prevent fruiting, letting the plant store that energy and use it to grow a stronger root system rather than fruits. This will delay the growth of any strawberries until the next growing season, but will make that harvest larger and better.
As a perennial, strawberries go dormant in winter, especially if temperatures regularly make it into the twenties. To prevent damage to the plant from frost, prune the plant back to around an inch of growth and then cover it in up to four inches of mulch to provide insulation. The mulch can be removed in early spring, after the last frost has thawed. Remember, great things come in small packages, and happy planting!